Save the Planet, American-Style

President Barack Obama traveled to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Friday to challenge the United States to lead the world in the development of clean-energy technology.

“The world is now engaged in a peaceful competition to determine the technologies that will power the 21st century,” Obama said. “Nations everywhere are racing to develop new ways to produce and use energy. The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy. I want America to be that nation,” Obama said.

That should be our goal, but we need to make sure American companies reap the rewards of their leadership. That’s why more than 60 members of Congress wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Thursday urging her to fight efforts by developing nations to weaken intellectual-property protections for environmental technology.

That’s one of the issues that’s at stake in negotiating an international agreement to address greenhouse-gas emissions. In the past, countries such as China and India have wanted access to the intellectual property behind clean-energy technologies as part of a deal to reduce their emissions. This month, they’ve softened those demands, according to the Financial Times, calling instead for more collaboration on the development of new energy technologies.

Members of Congress, however, don’t want to take any chances. They want to make sure the Obama administration doesn’t waver in its commitment to U.S. intellectual-property rights.

“Efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions must not come at the expense of American ingenuity, jobs, and competitiveness,” read the letter, which was spearheaded by Representatives Rick Larsen and Marsha Blackburn. “Rather, the U.S. should seek to help other countries acquire and deploy new technologies by addressing real obstacles, such as lack of financing and infrastructure and market-access barriers.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has sparred with Obama over the best approach to fight global warming, applauded the congressional letter.

“The pro-IP posture taken by Congress and the administration is vital to generating the technologies that will help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and improve our environment,” said Mark Esper, executive vice president of the Chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center. “It is wise policy that benefits the economy and helps protect jobs.”

Obama is right: The U.S. should lead the world in developing new energy technologies. These innovations, however, should benefit the U.S. companies that develop them, even as they help save the planet. It’s the American way.

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